When preparing for the IELTS Speaking test, you’ll notice that there are four sections to the assessment criteria. The first is Fluency and Coherence. This means how easily and clearly you are able to speak. The second is Lexical Resource, which concerns your vocabulary. Of course, another assessment criteria is Pronunciation, where stress, intonation, and saying words correctly are important. The fourth of the assessment criteria is Grammar. As you may have noticed in the IELTS public scoring guide, for higher marks in grammar you will need to do well in several areas. You’ll need to have a mix of complex, compound, and simple sentences. You’ll need to apply the right tenses and word forms in the right situations. You’ll need to be accurate. And finally, you must use your grammar to express your ideas clearly. Here are some tips to make sure you’re maximizing your spoken grammar score on test-day.
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
A commonly used idiom is “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. You are not an old dog, but this saying still might apply to you. Basically, this means that some grammar mistakes you made a long time ago, you are still making now. In other words, if you keep making the same mistakes again and again, then it becomes harder and harder to correct them. The mistakes are almost programmed into your brain. So, what’s the solution? The first step is to identify your mistakes. You have to know what you are saying wrong. To do this you can do many things. You can ask a teacher or a friend to always correct you. You could record you voice then write down all the mistakes you hear. You could also use technology – find a good speech-to-text app, speak into the app, then run the text through a grammar checker. These methods won’t pick up every mistake, but they will make you aware of some areas you need to improve on.
Get it right
After you have identified the mistakes you are making, it’s time to get it right. Of course, you could go the traditional route and ask your teacher, tutor, or grammar-proficient friend to show you the correct way to fix your errors. You could also, as I’ve mentioned above, run your mistakes through a grammar checker. There are lots of apps that do this.
Practice is the key
Learning a new language is hard work. There is no question about this. To learn the grammar of a new language well, you have to use it and practice it. The more you push yourself and the better practice tasks you have, the faster you will improve. There are classic spoken grammar activities like listen & repeat, complete the sentence, and verb-tense question & answer drills. Other activities include copy-cat -- which is basically repeating the spoken words of native speakers, and reading aloud – where you just read out loud the grammar activities you do. Finally, getting a good spoken grammar task book or app will help. Ask your teacher for a good grammar text that has spoken activities. And when you are doing your preparation homework, get together with another test-taker, put down your pencil, and speak!
Know your grammar
A great way to truly improve your spoken grammar is to truly learn the rules. Take the time to read and understand why grammar rules exist. This will help you identify your own mistakes and also give you more motivation to speak correctly. Not only will understanding the rules help you improve your speaking, but it will also help your other English skills like reading, writing, and listening.
Mix it up!
When most people think of grammar, they think of grammar books and proof-reading essays. That is only one small part of learning grammar though. Grammar can be found in every part of every language. It is the framework that links language together. So, when you are practicing essay writing, and reading complex texts, you are indirectly improving your spoken grammar. When you speak, try and reflect on the grammar you have learned within the other skills. One great way to do this is with subtitles. Find a video channel you like, Ted Talks, for example, and analyze the grammar in the transcript or sub-titles. Try following this up by reading the scripts aloud or even repeating the speaker. This exercise will both help you gain deeper understanding of the grammatical structures and give you some speaking practice.
The best way to learn spoken grammar is to become aware of the rules, meaning, and use, then use it! You have to push yourself to say all the grammar you have learned. It might feel uncomfortable at first, but the sooner you start, the faster you’ll improve.